|George Carlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
This post concludes my series on blue language or swearing. If you did not catch the first two installments you can find them here and here. There are many fine comments that are worth reading through on both posts. In this post I will be looking at the humorous side of profanity and the right to swear.
So far I haven't gotten many solid answers to my questions about swearing. Maybe there are none. I will somewhat concede that the utterance of a profanity can carry some impact in conveying emotion or emphasizing a point. I'm not totally convinced about that. A friend told me that in a former job in the security business he was instructed to use profanity when he was dealing with certain types of people since this would give him more credibility as an authority figure. I'm still not totally sold.
Other folks who defend the use of profanity said they use it because they want to--it's their right and they're going to use (abuse) it. Sounds like a spoiled child syndrome to me. This still doesn't sound like a convincing argument to swear. Then there are those who just think swearing is absolutely hilarious. This brings us to my next question:
What's So Funny About Swearing?
Here we will look at the following aspects of blue language:
- The humorous aspect
- Devaluation of the impact of words
- Degradation of the language
- First amendment defense of swearing
The humor of swearing:
The words sound funny or create humorous images--To some at least. It''s almost in an adolescent mindset of doing something naughty and getting away with it. There can sometimes be a certain amount of humor in this but mostly it's immaturity.
Delivery-- Granted that sometimes the way something is said can be funny. It might even be funny for a few to several times. But when the delivery loses its novelty it can get old and boring.
Element of surprise -- Humor is sometimes achieved by the unexpected or the shock value of the profanity introduced in an unlikely context. Once again this might be funny to some, while in other cases it can be totally inappropriate. Often the user will feed upon the first laugh response and run the joke into the ground. Excess is often the result of receiving the attention for doing something with no actual value.
Making others squirm -- Some people delight in knowing that others are uncomfortable. Initially some might feel it is wrong to do this, but if others are laughing then it must be okay. Let's embarrass the church ladies, the conservative Christians, the prudes and then we can all laugh at them. Maybe the bad words aren't really that funny but it's a real hoot to know that someone else is bothered by it.
Intellectual incongruity --When swearing is analyzed in an almost intellectual perspective there can be some genuine humor at play. Comics like George Carlin could be very good at this. Occasionally someone might make a crude observation or tell a dirty joke that is funny in a smart sense. Context and company must be considered in order for this to be effective.Devaluation of the impact of the profanities:
The problem with profuse casual use of swear words or obscenities is that too much of anything causes dilution. For those who like to use swear words for color, impact, humor, or to express that which they think cannot be adequately explained in other language, overuse of the crudities diminishes their value.Degradation of the language:
Blue language is not universally accepted or appreciated. If this language pervades everyday speech we may have brought vocabulary down another notch. There are enough dumb people in the populace who don't speak well. Funny in one sense perhaps, but in reality I'm not sure it's truly funny.
The Right to Swear:
The First Amendment is often referred to as a freedom to swear:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.Here's another more modern take on this right:
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
For one, I would suggest that the strong proponents of swearing are often as hypocritical and self-righteous as those they suggest are that way. Many of you who swear would be offended by someone else using epithets directed toward race, nationality, gender, or some other hurtful language. But they're all just words aren't they?
Lets face it. Words can be heavily charged to offend and disturb others. Are all words acceptable? Is it always okay to say whatever we want when we feel like it just because we want to? Should everybody just get over all of it? If you can swear, can others throw things in your face that might offend you?
Words. Actions. Images. Who has the right to offend? And what is truly offensive?
We think of those who died for our right to live in a free society with the rights that most of us are fortunate enough to experience. When the founding fathers of the United States drew up that first amendment, do you think they were thinking about things like swearing, obscenity, and pornography? Yet isn't that what it's come to?
Would you be willing to give your life or sacrifice the life of one you loved so that others could swear?